Meet Jeff Abrams, the self-taught founder and creative director of Rails–the SoCal brand that designs each piece with a fabric-first mentality. Founded in 2008, Abrams grew his small label (it all started with a single gray hat) into a full-fledged collection of women’s, men’s and children’s apparel. Over a decade later–and with a growing fan base of celebrity clientele including Gisele Bündchen and Taylor Swift–Rails quickly became known for its versatile plaid button-downs, energetic prints, and effortless silhouettes.
We visited Abrams at the Rails studio to learn more about the brand, and to get a peek at his fall essentials.
To start, tell us about Rails and how it all began. What made you interested in fashion?
I grew up in Los Angeles with no technical background in fashion and envisioned creating a lifestyle brand that blended the effortlessness of my California roots with a refined global sensibility. I would wake up super early in the morning, to work my corporate job for a few hours. I would then go downtown and try to figure out where to buy fabric, how to make patterns, and how to sew garments. I started by making a hat, a hoodie, and trying to connect with anybody I knew that could get my designs on people and in stores. I keep the first hat I’ve ever made on my desk as a way to remember where we came from.
What was the inspiration behind this collection?
We’ve tried to infuse this concept of the really relaxed Californian-lifestyle into the entire collection, in every category we do, whether it’s shirting, denims, dresses – that is really the focus in each of our collections. I actually think that not having that technical background has served us really well as we’ve grown the business because everything we make is meant to be effortless, easy and wearable.
What’s the must-rent pieces from the collection and why?
The Rent the Runway assortment is a perfect combination of all the classic things that we have in the Rails collection. First and foremost, the most important thing I think we’ve ever made is this hunter plaid – it comes in a number of different colors every single season. It’s warm, it almost feels like cashmere, but it’s something you’re going to want to rent season after season. We also have a lot of conversational sweaters, and more special pieces the Larson reversible coat.
What does your typical design process look like?
We always focus on the fabric first to make sure everything is super cozy. We’ll start with thread books or Pantone chips. We’ll make sure that all the colors we choose feel reflective of what’s happening that season. We send out a lot of different versions of samples until we find just the right pattern that feels right for the collection.
Now, let’s get personal. What’s a typical morning routine?
I’m up early taking calls with our global partners – we have a growing international business with more than 15 sales agencies and 8 PR agencies, so catching them early is critical. If I’m not in the office, you’ll find me on the road visiting new markets, our production facilities, or on set at one of our campaign photo shoots.
How do you get into the creative zone?
In such a fast-paced industry, you have to be creative at all times, not only in design, but in business as well. I’m constantly traveling around the world, as we continue to build Rails as a global brand, and I’m always taking inspiration from these travels. Whether it is architecture, local flea markets, or cultural influences, all of these experiences find themselves woven into our collections.
The favorite part of your day is…
Getting to the office and being able to collaborate with our Rails teams to build new collections. Rails is an incredible place to work!
Have a go-to work outfit?
I’m personally loving our new men’s offering. I often find myself in our Thomas trouser and Bryce sweater from our fall collection (something my Rails team has pointed out…multiple times). It’s something that can take me wherever my schedule leads.
Any books, TV shows, or podcasts inspiring you right now?
I’ve recently been into the Masterclass series, which features top industry professionals in different creative fields talking about their processes and experiences. It’s been amazing to hear about how the best in their fields are doing it.
When the day’s over, how do you unwind?
I’m currently renovating a historic property in Montecito, CA.
Watch a full tour of Rails SoCal studio on our Instagram